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Warning from regulator after explosive close call

underground mining safety regulator

A NSW regulator has called for greater awareness during pre-checks after two separate underground mines reported preventable incidents.

A shuttle car driver at an underground coal mine noticed smoke when unloading coal onto a belt in a development panel, which upon inspection revealed burning embers under a mobile boot end.

Preliminary investigations identified the design of the boot end allowed for a 200mm gap from a steel panel to the floor at the loading point.

During roadway cleaning on the previous shift, fines were pushed under the boot end, which then ignited.

The NSW Resources Regulator said the potentially explosive incident could have been avoided if shift notes included directions for the boot end to be lifted and cleaned following roadway cleaning.

“Mine operators must ensure that housekeeping activities in and around plant or structures in underground mines does not create additional risks of fire and explosion,” the NSW Regulator said.

“It is suggested that mine operators review their fire and explosion risk assessments and update any hazard management plans or subordinate documents where appropriate.”

Another incident at a underground metals mine saw workers narrowly avoid injury after a load haul dump truck wheel flew off amid operations.

The truck was bogging waste from an incline when the driver described what he thought was a rock hitting the heel of the bucket.

The operator immediately stopped the machine and notified the shift boss, when it was discovered the wheel was lodged between the wall and the position two guard.

Preliminary findings showed all but two wheel studs were undamaged, which would suggest the wheel nuts vibrated loose.

The cause for the loss of wheel nuts was linked to incorrect torque settings on workshop rattle guns. However, the loss of wheel integrity was not flagged by any operators in previous pre-start inspections.

“Mine operators must ensure that equipment is maintained as per the original equipment manufacturer.’s instructions, fit for purpose and that workers are trained and competent to undertake required tasks,” the NSW Regulator said.

“Mine workers must follow any reasonable requirement set by the mine operator to ensure the health and safety of themselves and their colleagues.

“This may include undertaking a diligent pre-start inspection of any plant that they will be operating.”

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